I was leading a delegation of post-graduate students from China, mostly leaders of the urban house churches, to attend Dr. Jack Hayford’s Autumn Leadership Conference. Afterwards they undertook a one-week intensive research project to work on their doctorial dissertations. They are all registered with The King’s College and Seminary.
For anyone to rendezvous at LAX, the notoriously hectic Los Angeles International Airport, is a challenge. But the China team all arrived safely, prepared and well equipped. These students were geared with their own communications and interpretation systems. During lectures everyone was taking notes on their computers, typing in Chinese as fast as their American professors could speak. In order not to miss anything, they set up their own audio and video recording systems. At every break they took their USBs to the professors to
download their PowerPoints. “We can get them translated,” they said, “so we can teach our fellow leaders and students in our own Bible schools.”
During the evenings the students gathered. Not just to debrief on the lessons of the day, but together, they got in touch with their fellow students in China who had to miss this trip. A couple cancelled out at the last minute because their house church, the largest in
Shanghai, was shut down by the authorities that week.
The students had kept themselves abreast with the events, because everybody blogs, texts, and twitters. They also Skype chatted with the couple in China who were suffering enormous pressure. Two things amazed me. First, how these leaders are now so connected. In my earlier days of China ministry everyone was ‘underground.’ It would take weeks, if not months, for a piece of information to circulate. But now, everything is instant. Our urban leaders are also well bonded with the Big Five rural house church families.
Second, in terms of information technology, the urban house churches are on the cutting-edge. Yet in biblical theology and lifestyle, they are still very much the Early Church.
When they saw their fellow coworkers being harassed, and churches in Beijing and Shanghai shut down, their response was unanimous:
• They praised God because all have had the last decade of relative freedom to evangelize and gather.
• They view persecution as a signal for Christians to pray, and particularly for their government. “… that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
• This is not a political or religious policy struggle; rather it is spiritual warfare. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4
• They exemplify the sympathetic nature of the Body of Christ: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.…” 1 Corinthians 12:26a
• The response we got from the leaders and congregations of Beijing and Shanghai, even though their churches were unlawfully shut down, was victorious: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
To “remember those in chains,” the students mobilized all the city house churches, as well as the rural Big Five families, to designate a day of fasting and prayer to identify with the churches in Beijing and Shanghai.
“We trust we can mobilize millions to fast and pray,” the students pledged. They were of course queried by the Americans as to reasons for the crackdown. Their reply was most mature: “As we continue to explode, and transit from being a hiding church to a
shining church, there can be many reasons for harassment and persecution. We don’t always know why. But we do know that difficulties strengthen the church in China. And we must work while there is day.”
The Urbanized Church in China, clearly, is still quite Early Church.
Dr. David Wang, a leading expert on China, is a highly sought-after speaker at international mission conventions and congresses. His leadership, writings, ministry and messages have touched countless lives. He has translated and authored more than 20 books, including several best-sellers in the Chinese world. David joined Asian Outreach in 1966, and led it into an outstanding organization in cutting-edge programs throughout Asia. He is also the Founder/Chairman of ActionLove, which is one of the social development arms of Asian Outreach, serving Asian people living in poverty. Today, David serves as the President Emeritus of Asian Outreach. His personal focus is on China and the Chinese world.